I’ve have many quick transits over the course of my travels, but never had an experience quite like my international transit in Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
Montreal International Transit In 22 Minutes?
When we last left off, I had arrived in Montreal on Tunisair almost two hours late, dropping the time to make my connection from nearly three hours to just 40 minutes. While 40 minutes is typically enough time to make a connection, an international transit to the transborder area (for U.S. flights) is far more complicated in Canada because you clear U.S. immigration prior to your flight to the USA (preclearance).
To complicate matters, when we pulled up to the gate, the ground staff had trouble opening the door of our A330. We stood for several minutes waiting.
I had flown Tunisair from Tunis to Montreal on one ticket and booked a separate ticket back to Los Angeles on United Airlines via Newark. By the time the aircraft door opened, it was 3:20pm and my flight to Newark left at 4:00pm.
And I wasn’t checked in…
(Why not? Because United requires document verification in order to check-in for inbound U.S. flights and I did not take the time to upload my negative COVID-19 test and vaccine card in advance. I figured I’d have plenty of time after landing…a foolish mistake, in retrospect).
I ran down the arrivals hall and saw a sign for U.S. connections, however an airport staff member would not let me go down that hall because I did not have a boarding pass for my U.S. flight.
Instead, I had to enter Canada…and the lines were horrible. Plus, I had not filled out a passenger locator form (since I was transiting) and the agent made me fill one out. The problem is it requires you to create a quarantine plan and provide an address you’ll be staying at. I showed this to the agent and explained I really didn’t need one, but she insisted I would be fined for not having one completed and told me, “Just make something up.”
So I put that I would be staying at the Park Hyatt in Toronto and she finally let me downstairs to the immigration area.
I had a decision to make: wait in line and miss my flight or be “that guy.” I decided to use the crew lane, which had no wait. An agent took my passport and I explained the situation. He understood, put a blue sticker on the back of my passport (indicating no on-arrival test required) and sent me on my way, without stamping my passport.
It was now 3:30pm and I ran through baggage claim and then upstairs to the check-in area, then ran down the length of the terminal to the transborder check-in area.
Boarding was about to begin for my 4:00pm flight. I also discovered that the 4:55pm flight to Chicago and been cancelled, so it was this flight or buy a walk-up ticket on the Air Canada nonstop.
I reached the counter at 3:35pm. A United agent told me I was too late to check-in…but thankfully his supervisor said she would make an exception since I had no checked bags.
With boarding pass in hands, I ran to the security checkpoint, which was thankfully not crowded. By 3:40pm I was past security and on my way to U.S. passport control.
No one one else was present and I used Global Entry. The agent stopped to chat with me…he was curious about my travel patterns but let me go when I explained I was a travel blogger.
By 3:42pm I made it to the transborder concourse and by 3:45pm had made it to the gate, where boarding was wrapping up.
I made it!
I would have saved a few minutes by having my boarding pass in advance, but it would have been a nail-biter either way. But I’m happy to report that even during the pandemic and despite busy afternoon crowds, I was able to navigate through the concourse, Canadian passport control, check-in, security, and U.S. passport control in less than 25 minutes. Not bad.
Thankfully you had that conclusion. I wouldn’t have understood the post.
Honestly, would never have considered using the crew lanes myself if I were in your situation. The only exception is if an airport employee told me to go to that specific lane.
He’s an entitled millennial.
Agreed and he also fails to explain that connecting flights in Montreal a breeze UNLESS they are US bound as hallway for those! US exception because our US Customs and immigration are actually in airport so you are cleared in Canada so when you land it is like landing from any other US flight. A travel blogger who does not prepare as he admits, Epic! Using crew lane is entitled and wish Canadians had denied his American attitude.
Spare me. I left three hours to connect, which was more than the double the time I actually needed. I make no apologies for using an empty crew lane with an agent sitting there doing nothing in order to avoid missing my flight. I did not pretend to be crew – I explained my situation and he let me through.
I was shocked too. Far beyond what I would have done – and I’m happy to let someone past me in the security line, for example. But it takes all kinds I guess.
Long ago, I had a flight from MXP to LHR (AZ) and then onto JFK (UA). The MXP/LHR flight was late late late and by my calculations I would have had 10 minutes to transit LHR—impossible connection for an arrival in T2 and departure in T3. Thus, I was resigned to spend a day in London (not that I was complaining). When I disembarked in LHR, an agent intercepted me (she was holding a sign with my name on it). She took me down onto the tarmac where a car awaited me and we drove between terminals right to the 747-400 that I was taking. I bypassed everything in the terminals. I looked at my watch and they held the door open for me for about 15 minutes. I was THAT guy and was sort of embarrassed. I really wanted to spend time in the terminal. But in the end I couldn’t really complain.
At the risk of stealing the drama, why not book the direct AC flight at ~6:00 PM? Couldn’t have arrived much later than your connecting flight through EWR and would have been a somewhat interesting review. I do appreciate doing travel reviews while prioritizing time with family must lead to zany choices but in this case an AC economy ticket with one less connection and 2+ additional hours to check in for a separate ticket – because what are the odds the national airline of Tunisia arrives late – seems like a dramatically better option even allowing for potential to be upgrade on your UA flights. Unlike TPG2, you do seem to fly economy when it makes sense and this seems like one of those times.
Thanks for your comment. As you’ll see in a separate trip report I’ll start today, I recently flew that Air Canada Montreal to LA nonstop flight and will be covering it shortly on the blog.
Here, the United ticket was about $150 cheaper and even though I did not upgrade from Newark to LA, I had three seats to myself and slept the entire journey. Plus, I got a free upgrade from Montreal to Newark.
Extremely entitled melenial! AND wealthy!!!
It’s spelled millennial.
Your 1K status with UA probably helped the late check-in with the UA personnel in Montreal. And with that transit, you at least got your exercise for the day. An interesting trip all around – thanks for taking us along yet again.
That was a fun, if nail biting, read. Yeah—glad you made it!
It’s interesting how they allow you to check in within 60 minutes of the flight, since that’s when the airline has to submit the passenger manifest. Perhaps an exception can be made because it’s a pre-clearance location.
Also, I’ve done the crew line bypass at YUL one-time when I landed around the same time as the fully-loaded Air India flight. I used my APEC card (since they did not have a dedicated APEC lane), and I was on a business trip.
As far as door opening goes, unless it’s different on Tunisair, typically the gate agent opens the door upon arrival, not the flight attendant. This is why often you’ll hear the knock on the door, the FA flashes the thumb up, then the agent opens the door from the outside.
Lastly, Canada no longer stamp anyone’s passport.
You’re right – I could have sworn they stamped my passport when I was there in January, but I just checked and there is no stamp.
You were “that guy” LOL
Your entitled, pat-yourself-on-the-back conclusion is extremely misleading. You only “made” your connection because you decided to selfishly cut the Canadian passport control line, without even asking your fellow travelers for “permission.”
Don’t forget the crew lane. Disgusting.
Such a constructive comment, as usual, Hwong. Thanks for your click.
Derek, why would I ask other travelers for permission? I didn’t cut anyone in line. I asked the immigration agent – he clearly knew I wasn’t a crew member and I explained to him my tight connection and he let me through. Your statement makes no sense.
I just can’t believe that worked. I think you may have used up your travel luck for the year.
You implicitly cut ahead of everyone who was in line. They could have been helped by this crew line agent but had the dignity to not use a resource they are clearly not entitled or invited to.
Derek and Hwong are jealous idiots. They would have done the same thing if they had the balls to do so (but they don’t)
Hoping It’s comment was satirical in nature.
Not having had a checked bag saved you. With one – there simply would have been no way in hades.
Do you often book separate tickets requiring an international transit with a layover of under 3 hours? Personally, I wouldn’t dream of doing it with under 4 hours and more typically would allow 6 hours. Unless of course I had a cancellable backup ticket.
I’m willing to roll the dice more than most when it come to tight connections.
Was laughing that you chose the Park Hyatt as your “fake” address. C’mon man, Holiday Inn Toronto airport not good enough for you?
You seem really pretentious.
I’ve been called worse.
Literally you make all millennials look bad with your self-entitlement. But you obviously think it was funny that you crashed the crew line. Because you think yourself better than everyone else who also had a flight to catch.
Not sure what this has to do with being a millennial. It’s not like he ordered avocado toast whilst in line. He did what any of us would do when stressed to find a solution. Anyone would, with knowledge and courage, game the system (as long as no one is harmed), to get to where they need to go.
Really, If you are so pure you must spend your life on hold.
I don’t consider myself “better” than anyone or “funny” – what a baseless statement. I happened to be more resourceful in this situation because I wanted to make my flight. I make no apologies for doing so.
Yeah my skin tone, Arabic name, and green passport wouldn’t allow for any of that to happen to me.
Not that I would attempt it either, it’s already tough enough for us to travel while abiding by all the rules.
Great lesson actually. I hope the author takes it to heart.
Aziz, you make a lot of assumptions. As it turned out, the Canadian border agent who dealt with me was of Saudi origin and named Ahmed. I know Canada and KSA have a strained relationship, but it’s an incredibly diverse country and the assumption that you would be treated worse than me with a U.S. passport because of your skin color assumes facts not in evidence.
Except I live in Montreal and travel through Its airport on a regular basis, so no assumptions here.
The treatment you got was preferential to say the least.
No doubt I received preferential treatment, but I’m curious about the claim that you could not receive such treatment due to your skin color. Could it be that I received special treatment simply because I asked nicely? So how are you treated? Second class every time? Suspect because of your KSA passport despite Canadian residency? I’m asking sincerely.
Just to be clear, I’m not blaming you for anything, I’m actually glad you made your connection.
But yes, my experience with YUL has been that no exceptions are made no matter what the situation is, so seeing that they checked you in and allowed you to use the crew line was really surprising and made no sense to me.
I’ve always followed all the rules (pre and during the pandemic) and still had less than pleasant interactions with immigration personnel (a relative of mine who is a US resident visited once and vowed never to return again).
I also get “randomly chosen for secondary screening” 9 times out of 10.
Interestingly, that doesn’t happen as much in Toronto.
So unless there’s a more logical reason as to why there are different standards for different people, I could only think of one.
I just remembered this encounter from 12 years ago…I even wrote about it. I am thankful I did not get this agent:
Detained at Canadian Immigration in Montreal
Thanks again for sharing your experience.
Yea, I woulda been dragged out of there like Dr. Dao. And imagine if a black man had gone to the crew line with nothing but a boarding pass. He’d be tackled or “put in his place” immediately.
You flatter yourself, Hwong.
Matt, it surprises me how ungrateful (some) readers here are. Calling you an entitled snob and other nasty stuff I don’t want to repeat and yet… you’re so gracious while being honest about yourself and even sharing how you make mistakes and try to handle and learn from them.
Don’t you know? Here’s some tips from the readers today:
1) Don’t make mistakes! Always be prepared!
2) If you were lucky or aggressive to get what you wanted, you’re entitled. Just sit in line and be a good loser. Keep your head down. That’s the secret to business success!
3) You wrote something I disagree with without a paywall! Why do I dislike stuff I choose to read?
4) Stop acting so privileged! Don’t you know this is a site about premium travel and first world problems such as getting paper napkins and plastic cups in 1st class?
5) I found two spelling errors in something you typed on your own with spotty wi-fi at 30,000 feet! I Am Livid!!!
I’m sure they don’t get you down because, well, you’re gonna enjoy cloth napkins and caviar tomorrow. That’s the point of all this, isn’t it?
Business class drinking game: 1 shot of premium liquor for every spelling error someone finds in your articles!
Ha! I’ll decline that last game…will get me hammered quickly considering all the spelling errors I make and I am really laying off the alcohol this year.
So PolishKnight, you’re saying people shouldn’t voice their opinions or share a different experience to what the original story mentions? What’s the point in having a comment section then?
There’s no excuse to people being rude or disrespectful, and I hope I don’t come off as such,
But people are treated differently on airplanes and in airports worldwide based on their ethnic backgrounds, that’s a fact you can’t dispute.
If nothing else, writing comments and having discussions is good for business as far as a travel blog is concerned, so I’m not sure what the problem is here.
Aziz, I’m not “saying” that at all. I was chuckling at some of the whines I’ve read here over the years. I was amused with the spelling nazis rather than anything you said. (There’s a wonderful college video on youtube on literal grammar nazis but Matt has a no URL rule. Matt, look it up. Hilarious.)
That being said, there’s a variety of factors at play in how people are treated overall, particularly while traveling. Hint: Try to be a pretty woman, it helps! Being a handsome man comes in second. Being a dad-bod middle aged man such as myself WITH a lovely 5 year old daughter in tow comes in third place.
Civilized people generally respond to good manners but the caveat is that uncivilized types are jerks but race is just ONE factor in all that. In some sections of the world, my ethnicity absolutely works against me so I’m not denying your point. People can be jerks. Travel helps to remediate that a bit in that being a fish out-of-water and comfort zone helps to civilize us.
What makes Matt’s personal stories amusing is how he’s been looked down upon as well such as when he tried to sneak into business class as a child and was firmly rebuked as “not belonging there.” Ouch! Now, he’s a handsome (particularly tall) young man, appears to be well dressed, and sort of like a James Bond of the skies. I agree that probably gives him an edge, but I think he’s also well mannered and considerate and that goes a long way too. But certainly, if you want to discuss all that I’m game.
Quite frankly, from my experiences abroad in my young days, I think that average looking guys such as myself are treated better in other societies than in the states. Every place in the world has differences, of course. Wearing a suit jacket helps A LOT. A famous female hacker said that she used a clipboard and an air of authority to get herself backstage at rock concerts.
Have always hated the Montreal Airport. The border payrol/immigration staff are the worse. I understand your situation. You planned poorly. As a frequent flyer and blogger, you added unnecessary stress. Just to get a cheaper ticket. My opinion only
Your criticism is fair.
First time I’m my life I hear something positive about our Trudeau airport.
Actually my experience showed you can make tigher connection in Montréal than other airports around (YYZ, BOS, LGA, JFK, EWR).
ie International to domestic and versa. Or USA to international (as you bypass Canadian immigration – if you have a single ticket)
But yes, you definitely need more time from anywhere to the USA – obviously due to the US pre-clearance.
But really, YYZ is no better in that aspect.
You should have been transiting Singapore!
Years ago, I was flying AKL-SIN-LHR on Singapore Airlines. The transit time in SIN was 2.5 hours. We left AKL three hours late so I assumed I had missed my connection, sat back in business and enjoyed the flight, falling asleep and not really noticing the time. When I woke we had made very good time and were about 50 minutes from landing.
The IFS came to speak to me and told me my connection should be OK and he then moved me to a seat in F by 1L on a 744, unusually, I was the only passenger going on to LHR that day. We landed and were on stand with 22 minutes until the LHR flight was due to depart. Everyone was held back while I disembarked and ground staff were waiting. I was walked up the jetty and into the next gate by-passing at gate security as it was explained where I had come from and on to the 744 bound for LHR which pushed back 8 minutes after I had left my seat on the AKL flight!
It’s been a long, long time since air travel was “fun,” even for domestic flights of less than 3 hours.
Thanks for sharing your “adventure.” Glad you made your connection!
Lol all these people mad about the passport control thing are the ones who get into a merge lane 7 miles early and then speed up to try to block someone from passing/merging 6.5 miles later. They get mad, we get results. Win win.
And then they do you the service of commenting and drawing more traffic. It’s hilarious
“Lol all these people mad about the passport control thing are the ones who get into a merge lane 7 miles early and then speed up to try to block someone from passing/merging 6.5 miles later. They get mad, we get results. Win win.”
As a driving enthusiast, I’m glad to find someone else who brings this up. Nothing drives me more batty than those who don’t understand the concept of the zipper merge, thus causing the through lane to back up for miles while you can zip by in the other unmolested right up to the merge point…
I can also concur with Mattt – I don’t understand the people that drive for miles in the turn lane and then get upset when people want enter. Oh well – let them honk and flip me off!
I’m frankly surprised the CBSA agreed to cut you a break. As nice as Canadians are, their border patrol is the one agency that gives the CBP a run for its money in the unpleasantness department. (Then again, I malign the CBP, but my family encountered amazingly pleasant agents on the pedestrian crossing from Ojinaga to Presidio the other day. So miracles can happen, I suppose.)
I do have to ask, though. Incidents like these don’t make you rethink, even just a little, your penchant for booking risky connections? Do you really get that much of a thrill out of beating the clock like this, such that you get more pleasure out of cutting it close than dorking around in the lounge for a couple of extra hours? I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve just never understood about your travel habits, and probably something I never will.
Believe me, if I could have given myself a longer buffer on United (though I thought three hours should have been more than enough, but I guess that was a dangerous assumption for Tunisair), I would have. Had YUL-ORD not cancelled, there would have been no such story like this one. But I there is only one flight a week from Tunis to Montreal and I wanted to get home on United…had just reviewed the same Air Canada flight a few weeks back. I do get a thrill from this, but I was also anxious…I wish the flight had been on time.
All those people so angry at you lol good lord! I’m from Montreal and the airport workers are mostly very accommodating.
The attitudes on here are crazy. It’s not like he was twiddling his fingers and lost track of time. There was a flight delay which caused a ridiculously tight 2-border connection and I’m amazed that he was able to make it. I’m almost as surprised that the EWR flight was on time!
He brought this on himself by booking a “connection” on separate tickets, which carries the risk of this exact scenario playing out. Tunisair is absolutely to blame for the late inbound, but to be clear, this is an avoidable risk that Matthew chose to take.
Matthew asjed the agent, the agent agreed (he did not have to agree) and Matthew went through. Brilliant!! If you srr an opportunity take it, what can happen? The control person can only refuse…
A grammar question. “By the time the aircraft door opened, it was 3:20pm and my flight to Newark left at 4:00pm.: Why used the past tense for left when there was just 2.20 and flight will be leaving at 4? Just curious as English is not my first Language.